It was August 10, 1974 and the television in the corner of the bar was running tape from the day before. From in front of the helicopter, Richard Nixon waved at the cameras while wearing a jovial smile. The arrangement of the smile on his face, coupled with the fact that he had just resigned the presidency, left me thinking he must actually be happy about the matter. I was an innocent 24 years old and had little worldly knowledge of the feelings Nixon might actually own at that moment.
The setting was a downtown bar in
Randy the bartender kept an eye on the banter and playful shoving of the fishing crew that occupied the tables behind my right shoulder. If I turned my head to the right I could see the leader of the group, dressed in a denim short sleeve shirt, an enormous belly hung over a belt long dismissed from view. Red suspenders saved his pants from falling about his ankles. His Giants baseball cap was tugged down to middle brow. He talked with a voice as enormous as the belly below. The general counsel he offered his fishing mates was that the communist were at the bottom of Gordon Liddy breaking into Watergate. According to him the communist had infiltrated Nixon’s staff and Liddy got himself caught on purpose, probably without Nixon knowing a damned thing about any of it. I tuned him out, but monitored bartender Randy’s eyes all the same.
To my left sat a man that reminded me of Joe DiMaggio. Joe had been born and raised in
I stared too long. It was as if he grew intolerant of my wonder at my new world, then seemed to have a different thought, benevolent in the face of my lack of grace. He turned to look at me. With a bemused smile he asked why a young man like me was sitting alone in a downtown bar. “It’s too big a story to get into really”, I said, “I’m actually from
“Is there a woman involved in
Moments of silence went by. I figured pretend Joe looked at me as an enormous creep right now, sort of like sitting alongside a big
In time he resumed talking to me, but he took a new strategy of personal monologue, probably not wanting to take the chance of learning any more about me.
“Son, there is something wonderful about a woman that would do something like that. There are good women all over our world. Now you understand that they are quite different from you and me. In a lot of ways they are superior. They know when a child is hurting just by looking at their face, and they know when you hurt by doing the same thing, just looking into your eyes they can know more about you than you want them to know. They do things we never see or appreciate. They smell better than baking bread most of the time and they do it for you and me. The touch of a woman can’t be replicated by anything. If I could have only one thing in the world I would ask God for the love of a woman beside me at all times. The flowers, the smiles, the touch, the knowing inside their eyes.” He stopped talking for a second and rocked his gin across the ice cubes. “You know, they say once a woman loves a man he should honor her at all times because it’s a love that can’t be replaced or found anywhere on earth.” He looked sad for a moment, then continued, “You know another thing? They are smarter than us men really. They understand what love means and they spend their lives waiting for us to catch up to them, only we never really are able to get there. That’s why I take flowers to Marilyn every day, my wandering man from
My heart skipped a half beat at the revelation that I was indeed listening to the great Joe DiMaggio. He had just told me how much he still loved Marilyn and why he takes flowers to her grave each day. My head felt light as I watched Joe place the cocktail glass gently onto the bar as he stood and turned toward the door. He placed a hand on my shoulder on his way out. “Son you remember what I’ve told you about the power of a woman. A single night with a good woman is worth 2 home runs. Go on home to
The large voice of the Giants capped fisherman boomed out at me no more than a minute after Joe’s exit. “Well look at the little man talking to Joe. He don’t know no one sits beside or talks to Joe in here. You’re a dumbass kid, nobody bothers Joe, everybody knows that. You think you’re some kind of special little lousy shit or something, just cozy up to Joe like you don’t know no better?”
Randy the bartender told him to back off, but he was leaning onto the bar at my right side, his big belly grazing my right elbow. His breath reeked of bourbon and cigarettes.
“He tell you about butt-pokin ol’ Marilyn did he? Tell you all about that pretty little bitch giving him head? My theory on women is that they all think with their twats. Aint that right boys?” he bellowed out to the fishing tribe.
“Damn right,” came back the chorus from the men, “Women think with their twats, that’s what they do, that’s why they’re so goddamned stupid.”
Slobber dripped from his mouth. Gravity dropped it onto his belly before it could reach the floor. With a flourish of his left hand, he spread the slobber across the shirt and leaned into to me so he could deliver the end of his sermon.
“You remember that you little turd, Marilyn Monroe hurt that man so bad that he don’t even talk to no one. Except for some damn reason he talked to you cause you didn’t know no better than to sit your little ass right beside him. You just remember my advice. Women do all their thinking with their twats!” He walked back toward his mates, triumphant in his bullying.
On the bar in front of where Joe had been sitting was the folded napkin. I opened the single fold in the middle to find his handwritten note.